SBN Staff

It’s something every business owner fears — the phone rings or you get a letter or email from your bank. They don’t want you as a customer/borrower anymore. What do you do from that point?

The most important thing is not to panic, says Charles W. Ormsby, Jr., managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. The situation is often not as bad or bleak as the bank originally presents it.

“They make it seem awful, but it can actually turn out pretty well when it’s all done,” Ormsby says.

Smart Business spoke with Ormsby about how to handle this type of problem with your lender.

When might a business owner hear from the bank about a problem?

In many cases, the business owner has defaulted on his or her loan. Perhaps they haven’t made a payment or are in violation of financial covenants. But it could also be due to the internal machinations of the bank. Maybe they want to get out of lending to your particular industry. Let’s say a bank is skittish about chemical manufacturing. It might call you up and say, ‘Look, we have the right to discontinue this relationship and that’s what we’re doing.’

Other times, a bank may want to clean up its balance sheet. If the bank is trying to sell or merge, it could need to get certain loans off its books. In addition, a loan can be classified as troubled without a business owner’s knowledge. If you’re getting more attention than normal — more communication and requests for information — that’s a red flag they are concerned about something.

What is the first step after that initial phone call, email or letter?

Take a deep breath, and then immediately contact your attorney and your accountant, who are hopefully experienced in this area. Having advisers who are experienced in dealing with, and standing up to, banks will end up paying big dividends — but only if you follow their advice.

Where do business owners make mistakes when negotiating with the bank about a troubled loan?

Never sign or promise anything without your attorney and accountant being involved. The bank is going to demand things, and in the absence of somebody who is experienced at advising a borrower, the borrower or business owner may feel compelled to comply. They might try to get you to waive rights, contribute cash, provide additional collateral or give personal guarantees.  

You need to evaluate where the bank stands, in terms of the collateral they already have, including personal guarantees. Don’t just accept what the bank is dictating to you. You may have considerably more leverage than you originally thought. As the saying goes, ‘Whoever has the money has the power,’ and you, as the borrower, have the money. Keep in mind banks ultimately don’t want your business, they want their money.

For example, I recently had a client whose bank called his loan and told him he had to put $1 million cash into his business. However, by the end of the negotiations the bank ended up loaning a multiple of that million dollars to my client. One of the things people find remarkable in these situations is how often banks will advance more money to keep you afloat.

One of the great fears for the bank is that you’re going to sit at the negotiating table — and I’ve done this on occasion — and slide the keys across the table and say, ‘Why don’t you run the business now.’ That’s the last thing they want. More often than not, their best chance of recovering as much money as possible is for the business owner, who has the relationship with his or her customers, employees and vendors, to stay involved.

Banks very rarely will precipitously shut you down. They will shut you down, however, if they start to feel you’re being deceitful. Its not a great strategy to play hide the ball with your bank. You want to be very clear and upfront with them. Banks don’t like surprises. If you are forthright with them, and get strong, you’ll get a better result.

Charles W. Ormsby, Jr. is a managing member at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach him at (215) 887-0200 or cormsby@sogtlaw.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

The advantages of an electronic health record (EHR) for individuals are readily apparent to many physicians. According to the most recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of physicians who have adopted EHR say the technology has led to better care.

But, for any number of reasons, that message has not quite gotten through to the general population. Privacy and security concerns are the major reasons cited by the public for its unease, and the main factors keeping many people from embracing the concept, even as the nation becomes more “digitized” in other areas.

“The general public doesn’t know much about electronic health records, and so there is some unease about the concept,” says Dr. Stephen Perkins, vice president of Medical Affairs for UPMC Health Plan. “It will take an educational effort to get more people to see what the positive impact of EHRs can be.”

Smart Business spoke with Perkins about the advantages of EHRs and the impact it can have on health care.

What are electronic health records?

EHRs are an electronic record of information that reflects all of the health care that was delivered to a specific patient in various locales over the years. The information can include patient demographics, progress notes, medications, vital signs, medical history, immunizations, laboratory data and radiology reports. Ideally, an EHR gives a physician a streamlined look at a patient’s complete health record and should make the delivery of health care more efficient and effective.

Why is there resistance to EHRs?

In a Harris Interactive survey taken in 2012, only about one quarter of the respondents said they wanted their records to be transferred from paper to an electronic version, and 85 percent of respondents expressed some kind of concern about EHRs. The survey also revealed that only 40 percent of people think that EHRs would help doctors deliver better, more efficient care, which is actually a slight decrease from previous years.

The reasons for the resistance include a fear of records being stolen by computer hackers, the potential for misuse of the personal information stored, and even the fact that physicians might not be able to access a patient’s record during a power or computer outage.

Even some physicians see a downside to EHRs. In a recent study by the American Medical Association, some physicians complained that EHRs increase their data entry responsibilities and requires them to perform added, time-consuming tasks.

What are the advantages of EHRs?

With EHRs, the chance of medical errors should be reduced because the accuracy and clarity of medical records is improved. When a vast amount of patient information is available in one place, it also should reduce test duplication, in turn reducing treatment delays and helping patients be better informed to make better decisions.

Other advantages of EHRs range from conservation of storage space to the fact that EHRs make patient information accessible from remote sites to many people at the same time. EHRs can make communication between health care providers easier and better, and the information is less likely to be lost or destroyed.

Are there any disadvantages to EHRs?

Disadvantages would include the initial expense, the unwillingness of employees to adapt to the new technology and the need for additional maintenance. The cost of starting an EHR system can be excessive, especially during a time when health care organizations are extremely concerned about higher prices. But it also can be argued that EHRs will ultimately reduce costs and improve quality by helping providers and patients be better informed, by eliminating costly and unnecessary duplicate tests and by helping to better coordinate care.

How can resistance be overcome?

Basically, patients need to be educated to the fact that EHRs will not replace their personal physician. EHRs just help their physician do a better job. Nothing can replace the critical thinking ability of a physician. What a well-designed EHR system can do is collect and disseminate information and assist in decision-making.

Dr. Stephen Perkins is a vice president of Medical Affairs at UPMC Health Plan. Reach him at (412) 454-7682 or perkinss@upmc.edu.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan

Relocation can be a challenge, but careful planning can be the difference between a move that’s difficult and one that’s smooth.

“When managing an office move, a move consultant’s objective is to minimize disruption in the workplace and quickly return the office to a normal workflow,” says Patricia Meyers, marketing manager at SMC Consulting, LLC.

 “No two moves are exactly the same. However, there are basic activities that need to take place to ensure an effortless transition,” she says.

Smart Business spoke with Meyers about how to effectively manage a move from one office to another.

What does a move management consultant do?

Whether you are moving an entire office, co-locating a cross-functional group or just reorganizing an office, a move management consultant can provide the appropriate plan and execution. An effective move management consultant will streamline the move process to ensure a successful relocation with minimal organizational disruptions, relieving the burden of coordination and implementation of the move while saving the customer time and money.

Move consultants simply enjoy the challenge of putting puzzles together. A move, like a puzzle, requires a process in order to execute the plan. You look at the whole picture — or in the case of a move, the old and new floor plans — then look at each small piece to find out where and how each needs placed to complete the picture.

What unique services can a move management consultant provide?

Experienced move consultants prioritize and manage a move by creating detailed plans and timelines for each of its phases, then communicate that plan to the customer and all associated vendors. Coordination, communication and scheduling all pre- and post-move activities will ensure a successful move.

Move management consultants might also be known as change managers. Change is not always viewed in a positive manner. Making the transition from an old, secure office space to a new, unfamiliar one is sometimes difficult and stressful for employees. The move management consultants will communicate on a regular basis to keep everyone informed as to progress and expectations. Employees who feel they are informed tend to embrace change, making the move less agonizing.

What do companies need to plan for when relocating?

There are many components to consider when relocating. Expect to have a solid and well thought-out plan of attack, and a move consultant who can execute that plan. Coordination and planning of movers, furniture, computers, phones, employee communication, office supplies and even the vending is critical to success.

As companies decide how they’ll execute a move, they should also consider:

  • Consultant’s time vs. employees’ time — Put the move in the consultant’s hands leaving time for your employees to handle the day-to-day business.
  • Experience — Productive processes and no loss of time.
  • Programming — Collaborating with all involved to assemble the puzzle.
  • Strategic planning — Making sure all parts fit together and knowing how to execute.
  • Execution — Implementing the strategic plan and managing every detail to ensure a successful move.
  • Attention to detail — Taking inventory of existing equipment, disposing of old and unused equipment, satisfying lease close out requirements.

A move consultant will help your company achieve cost savings by providing you with one point of contact who can reduce risk, time, cost and employee downtime. Ultimately, you want your employees to leave their old office on Friday and enter their new office on Monday ready to begin work with minimal disruption.

Patricia Meyers is a marketing manager at SMC Consulting, LLC. Reach her at (724) 728-8625 or pat@smcconsulting.net.

Insights Facilities is brought to you by SMC Consulting, LLC

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) made sweeping changes to the insurance industry landscape.

“Business owners and HR professionals will need to be in compliance with the rules and regulations set forth by PPACA. And, individuals will have increased questions about the health insurance marketplaces, individual mandate and underwriting,” says Michael Galardini, sales executive at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice. “As a result, employee benefits professionals will be asked to help guide both businesses and individuals through the changing marketplace.”

Smart Business spoke with Galardini about employee benefits trends small and large employers can expect to see in 2014.

What changes will small employers face?

Small employers, categorized as any employer with fewer than 50 full-time employees, will see a drastic change in 2014 in the way health insurance rates are developed for each group. Before PPACA, insurance companies could develop rates based on gender, industry, group size, health status and medical history. Post PPACA, small group rates are no longer rated, and small group insurers will only be able to vary premiums by family size, geography, tobacco use and age.

With the changes in underwriting, there also will be changes to the plan designs being offered to small employers. The establishment of Health Insurance Marketplaces and their product offerings has created a change in product design. The plan designs being offered are 90 percent, 80 percent, 70 percent and 60 percent coinsurance plans, which share the financial responsibility with the employees. These plans create larger out-of-pocket costs that most individuals are not accustomed to paying. Particularly in Western Pennsylvania, the population as a whole is most familiar with rich plan designs with no coinsurance, low deductibles and copays.

Explaining these product differences with a one-on-one approach is important to help each individual understand how his or her plan works. The business owner and/or HR professional as well as an outside advisor need to engage each employee to ensure everyone properly understands the available solutions.

What can large employers expect to see?

Large employers or those with 50 or more full-time employees also will notice significant changes in the future.

Beginning in 2015, large employers will be required to offer coverage to employees working 30 hours or more a week. There also are requirements to the type of plan that must be offered to these individuals as well as a contribution limit. The plan design must be at least a 60 percent coinsurance plan, and the employee’s contribution cannot be more than 9.5 percent of his or her household income. There are two fines an employer could receive:

  • Penalty A: Employers that do not offer coverage to full-time employees (working 30 hours or more a week) will be subject to a penalty equal to $2,000 per full-time employee minus the first 30.
  • Penalty B: Employers that offer coverage that is not of minimum value or not affordable (or both) will be subject to a penalty equal to $3,000 for every employee who receives subsidized coverage through the marketplace.

Large employers should be talking to their advisor in 2014 to determine if they will meet these guidelines.

Are there any other upcoming changes?

Lastly, and probably most significantly, is the individual mandate. Individuals are required by March 31, 2014, to have a qualified health insurance plan or pay a fine. The fine for 2014 is the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income. Individuals can purchase insurance through the marketplace or directly from an insurance company. The marketplace could offer a subsidy based on an individual’s income to help pay for premiums.

A qualified advisor will be well versed on the products available to individuals and business owners. The changes due to PPACA provide more options to purchase health insurance products, but the marketplace for health insurance is ever changing. Business owners and HR professionals need to be aware of when these changes occur and how they can impact their business.

Michael Galardini is a sales executive at JRG Advisors, the management arm of ChamberChoice. Reach him at (412) 456-7235 or michael.galardini@jrgadvisors.net.

Insights Employee Benefits is brought to you by ChamberChoice

Most business owners rely on their computer systems and technology to keep their companies humming. When technology stops working, the business stops working. Even a relatively “simple” problem or question could involve hours of troubleshooting, resulting in unplanned downtime and expenses.

Proper management of technology can not only minimize pesky tech issues that drag down productivity and drive up costs, it can maximize productivity and help a business grow. But the time and financial resources necessary to manage IT in-house are making outsourcing increasingly attractive and beneficial.

“Also known as a Managed Services Provider (MSP), an outside IT provider can take over the day-to-day management of your IT needs,” says Kevin Conmy, regional vice president of Business Services at Comcast Business. “A good provider can offer set-up, maintenance and proactive IT management, as well as troubleshooting for questions or problems whenever they arise.”

Smart Business spoke with Conmy about key questions to ask when choosing a MSP.

Do they understand your business and technology?

You want a provider who already works with businesses like yours — who knows the technology, software and hardware. Be specific about your set-up, and ask directly: Does the provider understand networked printing? Are they familiar with the programs you work with? Can they work with PCs, with Macs, with servers? What about mobile devices or combinations of printers, scanners and routers?

Can they support you remotely?

It may seem comforting to have a technician come to your office, but the convenience and speed of remote service and support is invaluable as it’s often faster and more efficient. For example, if you’re experiencing a problem and your provider can talk an employee through diagnostics, resets or other procedures on the spot, it often resolves issues without an in-person visit.

In other cases, a provider can use the Internet to access your systems and networks remotely, with permission, to reset routers, change network settings, scan systems for viruses and malware, or reinstall software and handle many other problems in far less time.

That said, there will be times when you need on-site support, such as when you’re setting up new equipment, resolving physical issues with networks or moving equipment. You need a provider who can deploy on-site technicians promptly, to any of your locations.

Do they work nights and weekends?

When do you most need service and help? If you are in retail, hospitality, transportation or any other industry where 9-to-5 doesn’t apply, you need a provider who is 24/7. Or, maybe the only time you can stop for service is outside of your working hours. A provider who is daylight-only may increase prices for after-hours and holiday support. They may provide limited services or slower response after regular business hours. That can hamper — and cost — you.

Do they offer preventive, proactive help?

It’s best to have a prior relationship with an IT provider. When your network crashes or computers go dark, that’s not the time to start hunting for help. You want a resource you know, and who knows you.

Second, ask what preventive services an IT provider has to help spot potential problems before something breaks. This can involve scanning your computers for rogue code, and troubleshooting and testing your network for performance issues.

How do they charge?

It may seem prudent to arrange for support on an a la carte basis, but when something breaks that practice can be unpredictable and costly. And it’s especially irritating when the problem could have been prevented.

A better option is an all-inclusive monthly subscription fee — either per user or for the entire business. This fee can include the immediate services that may be required, along with some combination of proactive and preventive services, data back up, hosting, etc. The costs are more predictable no matter what occurs, and it’s easier to predict the costs of adding more users, and computers. As your business grows, you need a solution that can scale with you.

Kevin Conmy is a regional vice president of Business Services at Comcast Business. Reach him at (215) 642-6457 or kevin_conmy@cable.comcast.com.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast Business

E-risk. Data and network security. Cyber liability. There are as many names for insurance that covers privacy and Internet liability as there are insurance companies.

In general, “cyber” is a catchall phase referring to use of computers, the Internet, networks and electronic data, says Jan O’Rourke, CPCU, RPLU, ARM, assistant vice president and director of client services – specialty division at ECBM.

“I don’t know of any responsible business that would operate without standard insurance coverage — general liability, auto, workers’ compensation and property — to protect the business against financial loss, and possibly ruin,” O’Rourke says.

“With the evolution of computer usage, cyber exposures are growing rapidly. For many businesses, their chance of a loss occurring due to a ‘cyber’ type claim is greater than a loss covered by standard coverage,” she says. “Yet many executives don’t seem concerned about the risk, and still don’t think they need cyber coverage.”

Smart Business spoke with O’Rourke about cyber risks and how insurance has become necessary to cover this exposure.

Do general liability policies provide any kind of cyber coverage?

Years ago, some cyber coverage could be found under the general liability and property policies. Those days are gone. Most insurance companies have added specific exclusions to eliminate any chance of coverage for cyber claims. The exclusions wipe away any doubt about coverage.

Who and what is at risk?

Any business that uses computers, stores personally identifiable data (even if only for employees), communicates electronically and maintains a website or social sites, among other functions, has a risk exposure.

Risks include third-party liability arising from failing to safeguard confidential private information of others, damage to another party’s computer network, infringement or personal-injury-type offenses communicated electronically, regulatory fines and penalties — such as payment card industry compliance, HIPPA and other federal and state regulations — and the cost to defend any of these allegations.

Also, a company that has a cyber attack faces first-party losses, such as the costs to notify persons affected by a privacy breach, including notification, credit monitoring and other services; crisis management event expenses; the cost to restore the computer system and network; and the loss of money, securities or other property from the computer fraud or fraudulent funds transfers. Additional expenses could come from e-commerce extortion, the loss of income due to computer systems not operating, and the costs for experts, forensic, legal or others needed after a breach or other incident occurs.

A 2012 cost study of 137 cyber breaches by NetDiligence found that an average breach cost $3.7 million, ranging from $2,000 to $76 million. The average cost per record was $3.94, with an average of 1.4 million records exposed in a breach.

How can companies benefit from cyber coverage?

One of the most important benefits is not payment of the loss; it is access to the insurance company’s expertise, including assistance after a loss occurs. The carrier knows the laws in each state regarding how notification must be handled, such as whom to notify and in what time frame. It has access to cost-effective legal, forensic and other specialists.

The insurance company also offers access to specialized websites that provide tools, tips and resources to prevent a cyber loss in the first place. Just reading the questions while filling out the application for this insurance provides food for thought.

It’s important to note that the only standard thing about the insurance market for cyber coverage is the fact that every insurer offers a completely different product. Cyber insurance premiums vary more than any other insurance line — as low as a few hundred dollars for the most basic extension to a policy, up to more than several hundred thousand dollars for the largest companies in high-hazard industries, such as health care, education and financial institutions.

You’ll need to utilize the expertise of your risk manager and/or insurance broker to analyze your specific business exposures and recommend the appropriate, broadest coverage for you.

Jan O’Rourke, CPCU, RPLU, ARM, is an assistant vice president and director of client services – specialty division, at ECBM. Reach her at (610) 664-8299, ext. 1210, or jorourke@ecbm.com.

Insights Risk Management is brought to you by ECBM

By definition, the term “waste” is an act or instance of performing or spending carelessly, extravagantly or to no purpose. Despite the negative connotations surrounding waste, many businesses are seeing waste as an opportunity.

Successful businesses are actively engaged in the identification and reduction of waste in processes, says Robert S. Olszewski, a director at Kreischer Miller.

“Processes either add value or create waste to the production of a product or service,” says Olszewski. “Waste can account for up to 30 percent of the operating costs of an organization. Unfortunately, waste has become accepted by many as what normally happens. Most businesses put significant energy into increasing sales. However, pushing more business through an inefficient system makes no sense.”

Smart Business spoke with Olszewski about the process and enhancing the probability of reducing waste.

Are there common areas of waste in a business?

Waste reduction is one of the most effective ways to increase profitability in businesses. Prior to jumping into the issue identification process, it is important to comprehend what waste is and where it can be found. Toyota, after years of work to remove waste, identified the most prominent ones. The seven most common wastes identified by Toyota include overproduction, waiting, transporting, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, motion and defects.

As we facilitate activities surrounding the waste reduction process, we often find that the key areas of waste are clear to all levels within the organizational structure. The elephant in the room needs to be addressed.

Is there a process businesses can use to reduce waste?

Conducting a waste assessment is the starting point, which generates a wide range of issues. With so many issues requiring attention, the project can be overwhelming. Therefore, ranking priorities enables the most important issues to be dealt with first; focus on the issues that have the greatest combination of economic benefit and ease of correction.

Start with the end in mind by establishing mutually agreed upon key performance indicators to monitor the effectiveness of the change being implemented or the impact of issues being addressed.

Who should be involved in waste reduction?

Waste reduction is not a task for a single individual; formation of teams is essential. Teams are not spontaneously generated, they require lots of hard work. It is unrealistic to believe your team will network and instantly reach peak performance.

Teams go through four distinct stages: honeymoon period, power struggle, working through frustrations and settling into a high performance mode. Don’t worry when the team enters into a power struggle, as conflict is normal; don’t take it personally. Change should be welcomed and the probability of success may be enhanced with an independent third party facilitator.

What are the most common issues you have observed in the process?

First is overcomplicating the process. We recommend isolating the significant few from the trivial many. You must be laser-focused on the issue and define where you are now, where you want to be, and form strategies on how you are going to get there. Do not get overly excited about where you are now and begin attempting to correct it. Be certain to define where you want to be in order to define and enjoy the success.

Second is accountability for results. Construct a one-page plan that highlights key action items, responsible parties and timelines. In addition, we recommend performing routine assessments for accomplishing mutually agreed upon goals and expectations.

Robert S. Olszewski is a director at Kreischer Miller. Reach him at (215) 441-4600, ext. 275, or rolszewski@kmco.com.

Insights Accounting & Consulting is brought to you by Kreischer Miller

Thursday, 21 November 2013 21:20

2013 SoMe Impact Awards - Large Category

SBN Interactive proudly presents the Midwest Social Media Summit inaugural class of SoMe Impact Award winners! These awards recognize marketing executives who took a leap of faith into the groundbreaking world of social media and in doing so, drove substantial value for their companies.

Nominations were received from the Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Pittsburgh regions across three categories — emerging, midsized and large industries. Throughout the nomination period, the breadth and number of entrants that were submitted blew us away. The strategies and innovations represented by these companies are world class, and we want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out surveys or contact us directly with nominations. Sorting through the fierce competition was not easy, but the 2013 SoMe Impact Award honorees are all deserving of the recognition.

While social media was once seen as a passing fad, it is clear that it is no longer enough to have Facebook or Twitter accounts — companies must actively engage their customers. The inaugural group of winners represented marketing executives who effectively used social media to make a meaningful difference at his or her organization. Ranging from companies who promote the social media initiatives of national organizations to those who have had successful special promotions that have garnered thousands of followers and millions of hits on YouTube, the first class of honorees demonstrate the milestones they have achieved in what is becoming the future of marketing. We are excited to announce the winners of the 2013 SoMe Impact Awards!

 

Here are the winners in the large category:

 

Tom Salpietra

president and COO
EYE Lighting International

EYE Lighting International spent two decades pioneering lamp and luminaire technology and introducing innovative HID and LED lighting products to a variety of customers in both the business world and the home.

In early 2011, it was clear that a new dynamic was in play that EYE Lighting needed to address. Social media was growing every day and the company needed a strategy to allow it to reach beyond existing distribution channels and industry communications media.

Under the leadership of Tom Salpietra, the company’s president and COO, EYE Lighting set out to establish a comprehensive social media policy. It lays out clear expectations for how administrators and employees interact with the company’s social media platforms.

The company’s Facebook page grew slowly at first, but quickly gained steam when EYE Lighting launched a targeted ad campaign and the page now has more than 10,000 likes. Work was also done in the way of Google AdWords and Analytics and new channels were created to make product announcements and generate interest in well-established products that still offer value to customers.

EYE Lighting also took a look at its website and hired a Northeast Ohio web development company to create a better master product database. The company also wanted a site that was mobile friendly for both smartphones and tablets and studied its inbound marketing techniques to adopt a higher level of calls-to-action by visitors to the site.

As new ideas continue to sprout, EYE Lighting will continue to find new and better ways to take advantage of all the opportunity social media provides to interact with customers.

Twitter: @EYELightingINTL
Fabebook: facebook.com/eyelightinginternational
LinkedIn: linkd.in/1fiHaxy

 

Susan Elder

director of marketing
Jenne Inc.

Social media is the hot topic these days and everybody is looking for a piece of the action. As the platforms change and evolve, the rules are constantly changing and companies are tasked with developing strategies to get the most out of each tool.

One thing that won’t change no matter the forum or venue is the importance of honesty and integrity. These two traits dominate the 10 points of the Social Media Policy Guidelines at Jenne Inc.

The guidelines are a key element to the social media strategy developed by Susan Elder, Jenne’s director of marketing who came to the company in January 2012. Elder brought 25 years of experience in marketing and corporate communications to the table, having most recently served as chief marketing officer with the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland.

When Elder came to Jenne, she discovered the company did not have a social media program in place. It was an opportunity to build a program from the ground up.

She began on LinkedIn, developing a group that has grown to include more than 1,000 Jenne customers who are resellers of technology products, as well as vendors who are the manufacturers of these products.

The group also includes content about webinars, training classes and new products and programs that Jenne markets and sells on behalf of the 170 manufacturers the company distributes.

Facebook and Twitter have also been worked into the mix, and Elder has enlisted a core group of subject matter experts in the company to regularly post and contribute to the forums.

Twitter: @JenneInc
Facebook: on.fb.me/I5942l
LinkedIn: linkd.in/1dZqqYv

 

Jason Parks

emerging media and video specialist

Charlie Kordes

vice president of customer demand and experience
SafeAuto Insurance Co.

Ayanna Lewis is a perfect example of the power of social media. The wife and mother of two from Hamilton, Ohio, entered SafeAuto Insurance Co.’s 2013 “Do The Jingle Contest” and won with her minute-long music video. The contest generated over 3.3 million votes, with more than 392,000 of those votes going to Lewis.

While it provides an opportunity for anyone interested to get creative and develop a clever new ad campaign for SafeAuto, the contest itself generates a lot of interest and awareness in the company as people visit YouTube to see what past winners have done or just re-watch their favorite commercials.

The audience that has been developed through the auto insurer’s social media campaign is substantial. SafeAuto has more than 50,000 Facebook and Twitter followers combined and more than 1.2 million views on its YouTube channel.

The results reinforce the power of social media for people in the company as well as customers. It allows associates to see the messaging and brand consistency on social channels and stay up to date and informed on the initiatives taking place at SafeAuto.

Under the leadership of Jason Parks, the company’s emerging media/video specialist and Charlie Kordes, vice president of customer demand and experience, the plan going forward is to continue to invest in social media.

The company will continue searching for more ways to both provide entertaining content and inform customers and followers about all of the things that are happening at SafeAuto.

Twitter: @SafeAuto
Facebook: facebook.com/SafeAutoInsuranceCompany
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/safeauto-insurance-company

 

Sara McKinniss

marketing communications strategist
ODW Logistics

Sara McKinniss found evidence that ODW Logistics wanted to build a presence in the social media realm. When she arrived at the company, however, nothing had come to fruition. It was her job to change that.

She was the first in-house marketing hire in the company’s history and she was given an opportunity to strategically plan and build out a social media program. McKinniss had grown quite fond of the power of social media in recent years and relished the chance to develop an effective platform at ODW.

One of the principles that McKinniss wanted to keep in mind was the idea that strategy typically doesn’t change once it’s conceptualized. It’s the tools that are used that create the biggest headaches for users. When Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn make tweaks to how things are done, it forces users to adapt to ensure they continue to get the greatest value from the tool.

McKinniss helped ODW launch an integrated approach that consists of a presence on Twitter, YouTube, Wordpress and LinkedIn. The goal is to not only inform people, but engage them and share the same content across multiple channels to ensure the best reach.

The result is an increased presence on the Web and in the social media world, allowing the ability to interact with the communities in which the company lives and does business. It has helped drive traffic to the company’s website, helped bolster SEO and PPC initiatives, and assisted in securing sales leads.

Twitter: @ODWLogistics
LinkedIn: linkd.in/IgAsto

 

Tony Zayas

interactive media manager, marketing
Proforma

Tony Zayas has a passion for social media, but he understands that it’s still an unknown for a lot of people. Sure, most people know how to maintain a Facebook page or Twitter account for their personal lives. But what goes into having an active and successful social media presence in the business world?

Zayas is the interactive media manager for Proforma, working with more than 750 franchise locations to help franchise owners boost their social media presence. Zayas understands that these leaders need to be out prospecting and selling to be successful. His goal is to design steps that integrate the process of growing the business with growing Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other popular networking sites.

He established the Intelligent Marketing Mastermind Group that each month offers a webinar for owners to join and learn about how they can utilize social media and other online marketing tools to their advantage. He also maintains an online community for owners to ask questions and provide feedback and success stories. In addition, Zayas offers news and tutorials to help owners improve their own social media efforts.

The strong commitment demonstrated by Zayas has paid off in the form of larger followings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as an increasing number of success stories that have ties to social media. Zayas has a passion for his own success, but he gets even more excited at seeing the people he works with achieve victories and grow their business.

Twitter: @proforma
Facebook: facebook.com/ProformaSupportCenter
LinkedIn: linkd.in/1dhXAWQ

Tuesday, 19 November 2013 09:10

2013 SoMe Impact Awards - Middle Category

SBN Interactive proudly presents the Midwest Social Media Summit inaugural class of SoMe Impact Award winners! These awards recognize marketing executives who took a leap of faith into the groundbreaking world of social media and in doing so, drove substantial value for their companies.

Nominations were received from the Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Pittsburgh regions across three categories — emerging, midsized and large industries. Throughout the nomination period, the breadth and number of entrants that were submitted blew us away. The strategies and innovations represented by these companies are world class, and we want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out surveys or contact us directly with nominations. Sorting through the fierce competition was not easy, but the 2013 SoMe Impact Award honorees are all deserving of the recognition.

While social media was once seen as a passing fad, it is clear that it is no longer enough to have Facebook or Twitter accounts — companies must actively engage their customers. The inaugural group of winners represented marketing executives who effectively used social media to make a meaningful difference at his or her organization. Ranging from companies who promote the social media initiatives of national organizations to those who have had successful special promotions that have garnered thousands of followers and millions of hits on YouTube, the first class of honorees demonstrate the milestones they have achieved in what is becoming the future of marketing. We are excited to announce the winners of the 2013 SoMe Impact Awards!

Here are the winners in the middle category: 

 

Kristie VanAuken

senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer
Akron-Canton Airport

Before social media, there were few ways for an airport to interact with its customers, and building relationships was next to impossible. The growth of social media, however, has allowed businesses like the Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) to directly interact with its customers on an ongoing basis.

When CAK began using social media, its intended audience was tech-savvy travelers. Today, that audience has grown to include any traveler on a social media platform. In creating CAK’s social media program, the goal for Kristie VanAuken, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer, was to not only gain followers, but to engage and build a genuine relationship with them.

CAK was the first U.S. airport to have a Facebook group in 2007 and now has nearly 60,000 total likes, making it the third largest airport on Facebook. In 2008, it was also one of the first airports to start a Twitter account and now has more than 8,000 followers. CAK thanks customers and shows them the appreciation they deserve every day. It’s a simple strategy that has helped CAK set annual passenger records from 2010 to 2012, and more than double the number of travelers in the past 10 years.

CAK didn’t end its social media program with Facebook and Twitter. The airport has hundreds of YouTube videos, a blog on its website and continues to adapt to, and adopt, new social media such as Instagram and Pinterest.

Social media has become a cornerstone of the airport’s identity and brand strategy to engage travelers and keep them flying with CAK.

Twitter: @cakairport
Facebook: facebook.com/akroncantonairport

 

Elizabeth Boehm

interactive marketing manager
Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff

Years ago, society stayed connected through the big three in media — newspaper, radio and television — it’s a no-brainer that staying connected to each other through the Internet far surpasses what those big three offered. Today, friends and colleagues constantly bombarded each other with requests, status updates, photo tags, email forwards and links to videos.

Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff recognizes the importance of embracing these changes, and through the efforts of Elizabeth Boehm, interactive marketing manager, is working to have a strong grasp on the technologies driving these changes.

Social media tools the law firm utilizes include blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and others. The firm’s two Twitter feeds have seen a 50 percent increase in followers in 2013 alone, and the company’s LinkedIn page has seen an increase in audience of 20 percent.

Benesch is dedicated to building a deep understanding of its clients, their businesses and their industries. Its adoption of these social media tools has helped the firm achieve these goals with much more ease and efficiency. The lines of communication between the firm and its clients and vice versa are now always open, and anyone can reach out for legal advice.

In addition, these social media tools such as LinkedIn connect visitors to millions of business professionals and potential clients. They serve as a modern day Rolodex. Benesch uses these tools to stay in touch with clients, recruit talent, follow-up on leads, get referrals and, above all, build credibility.

Twitter: @BeneschLaw
Twitter: @OhioShaleUpdate
Facebook: facebook.com/BeneschLaw
LinkedIn: bit.ly/Benesch_Law

 

Ron Poff

manager of global marketing and brands
Mar-Bal Inc.

Mar-Bal Inc., a B2B manufacturer of thermoset composites, launched its social media presence in late 2011 and early 2012. Mar-Bal has company pages on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and in mid-August launched a Twitter channel.

Even though most people relate social media with B2C companies, Mar-Bal and Ron Poff, its manager of global marketing and brands, saw an opportunity to increase brand awareness in the marketplace and increase content on the Web to drive search engine optimization and share credible and worthwhile news, links and other information to its audience.

Mar-Bal developed a social media strategy plan and implemented it in the summer of 2012. The company’s engagement and topic strategy has centered on its strengths, heritage, people and products. It also shares customer partner’s strengths and focuses on a “Made in the USA” and “USA manufacturing” drive.

Both competitors and industry association members have recognized Mar-Bal as an innovator and leader in social media. In fact, Poff was asked to speak at Composites 2013 about Mar-Bal’s journey with social media. The company now has more than 500 likes on Facebook, more than 250 followers on LinkedIn, and continues to grow its presence and content on Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

Mar-Bal and Poff realize there is still a long road ahead to grow the brand and impact with social media. Both feel, however, that the company has made a strong start in the right direction.

Twitter: @MarBalOneSource
Facebook: facebook.com/MarBalInc
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/mar-bal-inc

 

Jessica Morris

marketing coordinator
Staffing Solutions Enterprises and Integrity Staffing Services

As marketing coordinator, Jessica Morris has overseen all social media and marketing initiatives on behalf of Staffing Solutions Enterprises and Integrity Staffing Services. That includes laying the groundwork and steadily building social media followings and marketing initiatives as a one-person team for both companies.

Throughout her tenure, it has become her objective to not only gain likes and followers on social media, but provide outlets to create two-way conversations and relationships, while cultivating a sense of community with employees, clients, colleagues, prospects and friends, by showcasing the brand and employment opportunities.

This year, Morris developed a 40-week campaign to showcase Staffing Solutions’ rich history of community engagement, personal success stories and business milestones over the past 40 years. Using her creative content marketing skills and expertise, she created a “social story” that was designed to promote user-engagement, accessibility and reveal the character, integrity and light-hearted personalities of staff. Within eight weeks of the campaign’s launch, Facebook likes and engagement increased by nearly 40 percent.

Morris has also overseen the Integrity website redesign and launch. Integrity’s Facebook page experienced a 60 percent growth from cross-traffic by communicating with assignment employees on a more personal and accessible level within a six-month time frame.

Furthermore, as the talent pool continues to shrink with a recovering economy, using new social media and recruitment tactics attracts high quality candidates and differentiates both Staffing Solutions and Integrity from other staffing firms.

Facebook: facebook.com/StaffingSolutionsEnterprises
Twitter: @IntegrityStaff1
Facebook: facebook.com/IntegrityStaff

 

Dana Foster

marketing manager
Thogus

According to a 2011 study by the Harvard Business Review, manufacturers were among the bottom three of least active users of social media — and Thogus was no exception. There was no dedicated marketing personnel and only nascent use of social media without a clear strategy developed to harness it effectively. This changed when Dana Foster joined the company as marketing manager in 2011.

Thogus wanted to create a sales plan to “own our backyard,” focused on developing Thogus in the Northeast Ohio area. Foster saw an opportunity too not only promote Thogus as a manufacturing leader in the local area, but nationally as well.

Foster’s strategy utilized Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook with clear focuses on each platform. Facebook helped display the Thogus culture as it relates to the company’s brand. In the past two months alone, the number of likes to the Thogus page has grown 30 percent.

Thogus’ Twitter account is used to help promote customers, as well as foster relationships with other people in the manufacturing sector. Since 2011, the number of Twitter followers has grown more than 1,200 percent to 640 followers.

LinkedIn has proven to be the driving force behind traffic to the Thogus website. Since implementing a new strategy at the start of 2013, visits to the Thogus LinkedIn page have quadrupled and unique visits have tripled.

In just two years, Foster has grown Thogus’ social media presence and brand awareness, positioning the company as a marketing leader in the plastics processing industry.

Twitter: @Thogus
Facebook: facebook.com/Thogus
LinkedIn: linkd.in/1bDpGFk

 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 14:55

2013 SoMe Impact Awards - Emerging Category

SBN Interactive proudly presents the Midwest Social Media Summit inaugural class of SoMe Impact Award winners! These awards recognize marketing executives who took a leap of faith into the groundbreaking world of social media and in doing so, drove substantial value for their companies.

Nominations were received from the Cleveland, Akron, Columbus and Pittsburgh regions across three categories — emerging, midsized and large industries. Throughout the nomination period, the breadth and number of entrants that were submitted blew us away. The strategies and innovations represented by these companies are world class, and we want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out surveys or contact us directly with nominations. Sorting through the fierce competition was not easy, but the 2013 SoMe Impact Award honorees are all deserving of the recognition.

While social media was once seen as a passing fad, it is clear that it is no longer enough to have Facebook or Twitter accounts — companies must actively engage their customers. The inaugural group of winners represented marketing executives who effectively used social media to make a meaningful difference at his or her organization. Ranging from companies who promote the social media initiatives of national organizations to those who have had successful special promotions that have garnered thousands of followers and millions of hits on YouTube, the first class of honorees demonstrate the milestones they have achieved in what is becoming the future of marketing. We are excited to announce the winners of the 2013 SoMe Impact Awards!

Here are the winners in the emerging category:

 

Sarah Forrer

Co-Owner
Main Street Cupcakes

With more than 10,300 likes, Main Street Cupcakes’ Facebook page is the best and quickest way for its owners to connect with customers.

“We share our daily menus, pictures of cupcakes, exciting new company initiatives and we even do a weekly trivia question that gets an upward of 500 guesses every time we post it,” says Sarah Forrer, co-owner. “We encourage customers to request their favorite flavors, and it’s the first place we share job openings.”

The Facebook page began as an easy way to update customers with the daily menu, but has quickly evolved into so much more.

“We continue to post our daily menus for all three stores, Hudson, Rocky River and Medina, but the Main Street Cupcakes Facebook page is much more of a community now,” Forrer says.

As a community, the Facebook page is a place where the company gets to know who its customers are — learning about their families, upcoming occasions, favorite flavors and who they are buying cupcakes for.

The staff members at Main Street Cupcakes post their own content and introduce themselves to followers with a personal tone — and customers are doing the same.

“I’ve said it many times, but our Main Street Cupcakes Facebook community has made it seem like we are doing business with friends instead of strangers,” Forrer says. “I personally recognize people from their profile pictures. This gives us an extra advantage with our customers.”

Twitter: @mscCupcakes
Facebook: facebook.com/Mainstreetcupcakes

 

 

Nick Borelli

marketing and communications director
Rock The House

When Nick Borelli and his team at Rock The House Entertainment launched the Rock Your Prom promotion through social media, the results brought about a surge in Facebook likes and Twitter followers. In partnership with a local radio station, Rock The House allowed students to vote to win their school a $5,000 mega prom entertainment package. Visitors to the company’s Facebook page could see which high school was in the lead during the voting process.

Pulse Events, which used social media exclusively, was another successful Rock The House event. Weekly high school parties, which took place every Wednesday night during the summer at Roseland Lanes, Pulse Events generated thousands of area followers and more than 15,000 Facebook event invites each week. 

Borelli, marketing and communications director, has also received recognition for his social media involvement. He received the 2013 CBC Magazine Connector’s Choice Award for Networking Star and the 2013 ISES Ohio WOW Award for Best Marketing Collateral Over $250,000. He’s been interviewed on WOIO-TV on the rise of Pinterest, was the first of seven official brand ambassadors for the International Special Events Society representing the Midwest and was chosen as the public relations chair for The SEARCH Foundation, a national nonprofit.

In addition, he has been chosen to speak at The Special Event in Nashville in January on multiple social media marketing topics. 

Twitter: @igotrocked
Facebook: facebook.com/igotrocked
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/rock-the-house-entertainment-group

 

Heather Taylor

Small Business Membership Coordinator
Greater Akron Chamber

Members of the Greater Akron Chamber as well as members of the local business community have an ally when it comes to getting “up to speed” on social media platforms — Heather Taylor.

Taylor, small business membership coordinator, works with many area entrepreneurs and business professionals to offer assistance with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Her efforts include providing free or low-cost workshops with a focus on how to use LinkedIn to add to personal branding and how to grow business through the use of social media.

With their skills in social media, Greater Akron Chamber members have the chance to connect with one another and follow each other’s updates in real time. The chamber has utilized social media platforms to showcase its members, whether through marketing events or by promoting an opportunity to support a local nonprofit organization.

In addition, Taylor donates her time as the social media administrator for Women In Touch with Akron’s Needs, a Summit County nonprofit organization founded in 1943. Taylor has also volunteered her time and social media knowledge to other causes such as Project Ed Bear, The Bloom Society, the Knowledgeable Network of Women and the Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio.

Taylor has developed the Greater Akron Chamber’s Facebook page, a resource for its followers and their networks to obtain information on local business partners as well as a place to learn more about networking events and professional development workshops throughout the area.

Twitter: @grtakronchamber
Facebook: facebook.com/GreaterAkronChamber
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/greater-akron-chamber

 

Ellen Kurr

Director of Brand Experience
AtNetPlus Inc.

While the term social media, with all its jargon and protocols, may stir up questions in the minds of some, Ellen Kurr makes it her job to translate it all so the everyday computer user can understand and comprehend it.

When Kurr, director of brand experience, started with AtNetPlus in January 2008, social media was in its infancy and few people were harnessing its potential. Not afraid to be an early adopter of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, she has made AtNetPlus an industry leader in social media branding and marketing for Northeast Ohio organizations of similar size. Social media plays an integral role in continuing to build AtNetPlus’ brand, reputation and business.

Not to overlook the power of video, Kurr also has developed several videos for AtNetPlus that show “what we do” and “who we are” as an organization. AtNetPlus currently posts all videos to both Vimeo and YouTube.

Today, four years after it was started in 2009, the weekly AtNetPlus blog has played a significant part in maintaining high search engine rankings for industry keywords. Kurr approves all blog topics and content, and edits the individual blogs before they are posted. Her guidance gives the blog a consistent voice and style that matches the AtNetPlus brand.

Some of the measurements of success at AtNetPlus in the last 18 months include a 32 percent increase in the number of Twitter followers, a 36 percent increase in the number of Facebook likes and a substantial 292 percent increase in the number of followers on AtNetPlus’ LinkedIn page.

Twitter: @atnetplus
Facebook: facebook.com/atnetplus
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/atnetplus

 

Rodger Roeser

CEO
The Eisen Agency

Not only does Rodger Roeser manage and direct the social media initiative for his company, The Eisen Agency, but he and his team direct the social media initiatives of dozens of local and national businesses.

These businesses include many of the largest and most recognized brands, as well as those that have a small budget but big dreams.

“Our creativity and ability to be pragmatic about how social media actually works has resulted in not just posts, but actually the development of engaging content that has helped to build and shape Cincinnati businesses and organizations,” says Roeser, CEO.

The Eisen Agency was on the forefront when blogging and blogging techniques for business were developed, launched an online podcast series, That Marketing Show, and a VLog series that showcased best practices in marketing, public relations and social media.

The agency’s blog, Cult of the Blue Tongue, is among the most widely read blogs in the public relations and marketing industry, while its LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Flickr pages are visited frequently by industry and business leaders for information and news content.

Clients have experienced increased direct sales and new business development as well as thousands of new contacts and engagements. These engagements have created opportunities for content sharing, couponing, memberships, education, business relationships and other opportunities that have helped grow clients’ businesses.

Twitter: @EisenHotNews
Facebook: facebook.com/pages/The-Eisen-Agency/320853637960965
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/the-eisen-agency